The Biophilia Hypothesis
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"Biophilia" is the term coined by Edward O. Wilson to describe what he believes is humanity's innate affinity for the natural world. In his landmark book Biophilia, he examined how our tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes might be a biologically based need, integral to our development as individuals and as a species. That idea has caught the imagination of diverse thinkers.
The Biophilia Hypothesis brings together the views of some of the most creative scientists of our time, each attempting to amplify and refine the concept of biophilia. The variety of perspectives -- psychological, biological, cultural, symbolic, and aesthetic -- frame the theoretical issues by presenting empirical evidence that supports or refutes the hypothesis. Numerous examples illustrate the idea that biophilia and its converse, biophobia, have a genetic component:
The biophilia hypothesis, if substantiated, provides a powerful argument for the conservation of biological diversity. More important, it implies serious consequences for our well-being as society becomes further estranged from the natural world. Relentless environmental destruction could have a significant impact on our quality of life, not just materially but psychologically and even spiritually.
Prelude: "A Siamese Connexion with a Plurality of Other Mortals"
PART I. Clarifying the Concept
Chapter 1. Biophilia and the Conservation Ethic
Chapter 2. The Biological Basis for Human Values of Nature
PART II. Affect and Aesthetics
Chapter 3. Biophilia, Biophobia, and Natural Landscapes
Chapter 4. Humans, Habitats, and Aesthetics
Chapter 5. Dialogue with Animals: Its Nature and Culture
PART III. Culture
Chapter 6. Searching for the Lost Arrow: Physical and Spiritual Ecology in the Hunter's World
Chapter 7. The Loss of Floral and Faunal Story: The Extinction of Experience
Chapter 8. New Guineans and Their Natural World
PART IV. Symbolism
Chapter 9. On Animal Friends
Chapter 10. The Sacred Bee, the Filthy Pig, and the Bat Out of Hell: Animal Symbolism as Cognitive Biophilia
PART V. Evolution
Chapter 11. God, Gaia, and Biophilia
Chapter 12. Of Life and Artifacts
PART VI. Ethics and Political Action
Chapter 13. Biophilia, Selfish Genes, Shared Values
Chapter 14. Love It or Lose It: The Coming Biophilia Revolution
Chapter 15. Biophilia: Unanswered Questions
Stephen R. Kellert ’71 Ph.D., a revered professor of social ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) whose research and writing advanced the understanding of the connection between humans and the natural world, died on Nov. 27 after a long illness.
Kellert, the Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology, who came to F&ES in 1977 and continued to teach following his retirement in 2010, also mentored generations of doctoral, masters, and undergraduate students at Yale.
In recent years he helped pioneer the field of biophilic design, an emerging discipline that aims to improve health and well-being by promoting connections between people and nature in the built environment.
Those principles would inspire Kellert to propose a new F&ES headquarters that achieved less environmental impact but also made occupants feel more in touch with nature. His vision was fulfilled with the opening, in 2009, of Kroon Hall, a building that boasts, among other things, wide access to natural light and wood harvested by Yale foresters. Throughout the planning and construction of Kroon Stephen Kellert was involved. Read more.
In remembrance, we offer the prologue to Stephen's book, The Value of Life.
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